Seven ECE fraud complaints upheld

The ministry said none of the cases warranted referral to the police, and it was misunderstanding of the rules rather than intentional breaches that led to the complaints.

However, some of the services had to repay thousands of dollars in government subsidies and one was placed on a provisional licence.

One service was the subject of two complaints that suggested it was claiming funding for children who were no longer attending, it was not meeting child/teacher ratios and former staff were still included on rosters.

“Ministry audits were conducted and a total of $46,835 was recovered from the service as a result of disallowed funding. The service was placed on a provisional licence and the ministry worked with the service to improve regulation compliance.”

Another of the services was also found to be claiming funding for children who were not enrolled and had to repay $40,170.

One of the complaints alleged that a service was gifting money to a church.

“The ministry conducted an audit and $6317.24 was recovered. The ministry had meetings with the service provider and ERO [the Education Review Office] regarding a ‘further development review’ to assist the service in improving quality of practice.”

Early Childhood Education gets a huge bundle of government money, and there is never enough of it at centre level. ?But a lot, if not the majority of ECE facilities are run by unpaid volunteers – frequently parents. ?And the quality of these people is quite variable.

A source revealed?one centre claimed back GST on all wages it paid for two years. ? Somehow the “audit” never caught it – another problem where the local go-to person that audits accounts simply adds a disclaimer about doing the best under the circumstances and rubber stamps it for an easy fee.

The children of the parents that stuffed that up had lots of extra money. ?By the time they moved on, the parents and children that had to somehow run an ECE on meagre funds also had to find a additional money to pay back the IRD. ?That’s a lot of sausage sizzles, silent auctions and fairs.

On the whole, this system works well enough, with 7 cases out of thousands and thousands of ECE organisations being proportionally low. ? But that is more due to good luck than good management. ?The potential of well meaning but unskilled volunteers to make a big mess of it is quite substantial, and some degree of oversight is needed so mistakes are captured early.